Monday, November 26, 2007

Heading Home

Almost three months ago I arrived in New Zealand to hike the countryside.
I knew before I started that this journey would be more then just walking.
Over the past few months I have experience and enjoyed so much Kiwi hospitality,
and have seen some of the most beautiful, ever changing scenery. Its really difficult
to pick out a favorite moment or event because I have enjoyed it all. I have made it
to Wellington from Cape Reinga, roughly about half way, and have decided to end my
hike and go back to Lake Tahoe. I would like to thank everyone that has helped us
along the way. It has truly been a humbling experience. So, being my last entry
I want to wish Dennis and Alice the best of luck and blue skies on the remainder
of the hike.


P.S. These are a few pictures that have been the highlight of my trip.


We've made it halfway! We're in Wellington at the bottom of the North Island hanging out for a few days enjoying the sunshine before starting on the South Island. But, I get ahead of myself, there were five days of walking before we got here.

After Levin we headed back into the mountains to the Tararua Ranges. Our first peak was Mt Thompson which we almost didn't make it to due to a little discrepancy on our map. We were heading along a forest track and came to a fork in the stream. Both our paper map and the map on our GPS showed that the trail we wanted was directly opposite this river fork. So we crossed over and when we didn't see anything obvious we started hunting around. About an hour later, feeling scratched up from the bushwacking and very frustrated we decided to head back to the road and walk around. A little ways back down the trail we saw a separate fork that we had missed earlier which turned out to be our intersection. It wasn't the first time our maps have been less than accurate but it's still frustrating.

After a few days in canoes then another four walking along the beaches, it'd been a while since we'd had to walk up any hills. We sure made up for it with the walk up to Mt Thompson. It was endlessly steep, and one of the hottest days we've had yet. Sweaty back syndrome was at an all time high. But we were rewarded with amazing views back to the coast where we'd been walking a couple of days earlier.

After some more forest and farm sections we were on to the Southern Crossing of the Tararuas. This is one of the most popular routes through the Ranges. It was a fun few days with lots of elevation changes, stunning views (sometimes) and cool mossy trees that made me feel like I was in some kind of enchanted forest. We stayed the first night at Field Hut. I've really built up huge respect for all the pioneers of the tramping tracks around New Zealand. This hut was originally built in 1924, pit sawing the wood on site. It certainly makes our journey much easier with ready-made huts, light gear and an established track.

The next day we were heading over the 'tops', a razorback ridge above the treeline where the trail dropped sharply away on both sides. Over the previous few days the weather had been overcast in the morning, with the sun coming out and burning off the clouds by lunchtime. We were expecting some stunning views over to the coastline on both sides of the island so we had a late start to wait for the clouds to disappear. We reached the Kime Hut for lunch and decided to hang out for a bit because it wasn't clear yet.

After a long while and lots of snacking the clouds actually started rising back up again so we decided to go for it. We reached Mt Hector, the highest peak, and had a stunning view into nothingness. Just as we were heading off the summit the craziness started. The clouds started moving faster, the wind started whipping and it got a whole lot colder. Even though we didn't get a view, the winds actually made it really fun. I was keeping the boys amused with my drunken looking stumble along the ridge. The winds were so strong you had to lean right into them to stop yourself been blown off the ridge one way, but then you'd reach a calmer spot and almost topple over the other side without the constant resistance of the wind. It was great, although we could see how unprepared trampers could easily get caught out without the right gear. We did get the occasional glimpse out to the eastern coast, and yes, it did look gloriously sunny out there.

We came into Wellington along the Hutt River Walkway and even managed to come across the Lower Hutt Christmas Parade. I think that's about as Christmassy as we'll get this year. Who knows where we'll be for the actual day. Probably in the middle of nowhere, treating ourselves to an extra serving of dehydrated vegetables.

We're staying with some of my relatives in Lowry Bay. We had our first swim in the North Island at the beach by their house. So far whenever we've been by water the weather hasn't been warm enough to inspire us to jump in. Thank you to the Lynskys for having us to stay. It's always nice to have a place to relax on our days off, and one with such an amazing view of Wellington harbour is even better!

It'll be a while before you hear from us again. We have a nine day section between towns at the top of the South Island, our longest yet. Not looking forward to putting on our heaviest pack yet for that one. Lane's leaving us now to head back to the States. Lane, it's been fun. Good luck for the winter and get lots of powder days in for us.


Alice on the trail up to Mt Thompson and views back to the west coast
Dennis on the Southern Crossing trail
Kime Hut with the rising clouds
The track we followed along the ridges
Lane and Dennis, their first New Zealand swim